“All the education in the world is worthless,” wrote an 18-year-old blogger for A Boundless World, “if you never unlock what makes your heart beat.” He asserts that passion, determination, and a positive attitude equal success. This story of passion captures readers and raises a question for communications directors in school districts. If students and communities can easily share what they are passionate about in their lives (via Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, or Posterous), will they share stories about school?
Changing expectations for how we share heroic narratives have implications for school district administrators who feel pressured to represent
change to a wider audience as positive, enabling, and encouraging. Our classrooms, our schools, and our districts are defined by the stories the community tells about them. School districts may garner better results when they empower educational communities to share the compelling, everyday stories. Here are five tips for K-12 educators, communication professionals or not:
1. Engage Your Audience with Content About, and Featuring, Them
Content that’s been prefabricated and written in third person is lifeless, but that which is authentic, transparent, and open about success (as well as failure) will be read by your constituents. Start your social media with a story and integrate multimedia such as text, audio, and video. Blend all of it in so that your audience can choose their preferred media. The multimedia portions can be downloaded and put on iPhones and/or Android devices. This is a great way for students, community members, and staff to find out what is going on from others in their organization.
2. Make Content Sharing Easy
Press releases on a website just do not work anymore. Traditional websites that can’t be subscribed to using RSS feeds or that don’t allow email subscriptions are dead sites. Many web users just aren’t taking the time to come back to those sites, instead preferring to subscribe to content that will come to them via Feedly, Twitter updates to their phone, and more. Use a blog (e.g. WordPress) and add plug-ins that make it easy for people to share your content with others. Teach others to use tools like Medium.com, Flipboard, YouTube, Touchcast, and Microsoft Sway to create, share, and respond to content online.
3. Create a Content Calendar
In your district, there are many wonderful things happening that your community wants to know about. Unfortunately, providing print copies of short articles via email do not allow you to explore and share everything great that is happening; however, online, you have an unlimited number of pages and a global audience. Why not create a social media content calendar that enables you to map out what you will be sharing with others online? Take it another step forward, and invite your “audience co-creators” to speak and discuss what they would like to see on a content calendar. The dialogue process can be powerful as you begin to hear voices that previously may have gone unheard.
4. Define and Build Relationships
While it may not be popular to follow your local news reporters via Twitter, it is critical that you do so. You can raise their awareness of the content that you are sharing about your school district. While they may want to focus on the negative, you can mitigate the effect of their tweets by building a relationship of trust and integrity through the stories you share about your district, your campus, and your classroom.
5. Make Offline Content Available Online
Every speaking engagement and every meeting is an opportunity to share your ideas via social media. Avoid the mistake of creating content solely for online or offline audiences. When you create offline content (e.g. a conversation with parents at the morning coffee meet-n-mingle with the principal), take the time to write about it, maybe even debrief a parent in a one-on-one conversation. “What did you think about our morning coffee meeting? How did it impact you?” Take the time to share what you’re doing online.
A Final Point
Educators must be more proactive in spreading the word about all of the amazing things we are doing with and for our students to innovate teaching and learning. Encourage your staff and students to learn how to appropriately use social media tools to share their own stories of passionate engagement.